Global Hazards - October 2012


Please note: Material provided in this report is chosen subjectively and included at the discretion of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The ability to report on a given event is limited by the amount of information available to NCDC at the time of publication. Inclusion of a particular event does not constitute a greater importance in comparison with an event that has not been incorporated into the discussion. Data included in this report are preliminary unless otherwise stated. Links to supporting information are valid at the time of publication, but they are not maintained or changed after publication.


Updated 21 November 2012


October 2012Dry and warm conditions persisted in Australia. read more October 2012Massive dust storm obscured parts of central U.S. read more October 2012Bulgaria basked under heatwave. read more October 2012Torrential rains inundated cities in France, Africa, and Argentina read more October 22ndTwisters made rare appearance in western U.S. read more October 2012Hurricanes roared in four of five ocean basins. read more October 28thHeavy snowfall blanketed parts of Europe. read more October 11thRare snowfall swirled through southern Australian mountains. read more October 2012Sea ice thickness changes motivated research read more



Drought conditions

Bushfires in northern Australia on 13 October 2012
Bushfires in northern Australia
on 13 October 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Below-average rainfall during October in north and central Australia bolstered the bushfire threat. Dry lightning ignited numerous bushfires along border areas of the Northwest Territory and Western Australia at mid-month. October's average rainfall in southern Australia was the lowest on record since 1900. In early October, two fires in New South Wales threatened more than 20 coastal homes as gusty winds spread the flames. One of the fires erratically burned near a coal mining operation and forced a closure of the train services between Sydney and Newcastle while charring almost 1,500 acres, according to media reports. During October, efforts to construct Australia's first bushfire resistant home were underway in rural Victoria. The structure — made with steel frame, magnesium oxide, and straw bale insulation — withstood over 1000°C (1832°F) for nearly two minutes in bushfire simulations.


U.S. Great Plains Dust Storm on 18 October 2012
U.S. Great Plains Dust Storm
on 18 October 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

In the U.S., persistent exceptional drought across the Great Plains combined with ferocious northwest winds with gusts topping 113 kph (70 mph) to render a widespread dust storm on October 18th spanning several states. Reduced visibilities closed sections of interstate highways in the states of Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas. In Oklahoma, a major traffic accident involving over 30 cars and tractor-trailers occurred during the dust storm, resulting in nine persons being injured, according to media reports. Strong winds and drought in the southwestern corner of North Dakota fueled a grassland fire which destroyed 4 homes and 20 other structures, while engulfing over 6,000 acres near the town of Bucyrus at mid-month. Please see NOAA's Wildfires page for additional information.

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Extreme Temperatures

Bulgaria experienced record high temperatures during October. Five new records for daily maximum temperatures were set on October 1st in the cities of Lovech, Blagoevgrad, Dragoman, Sofia, and Shabala, ranging from 34.9°C (94.8°F) to 25.4°C (77.7°F). Moreover, the records were part of a multi-day streak (begun during September) of unusually warm autumn temperatures, as strong southerly winds blew across the country. On October 16th seven new daily maximum temperature records were set, while on October 28th new extremes occurred at five locations, according to media reports.

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Heavy rainfall and flooding

Above-normal rainfall occurred across much of France during October. The country averaged 107 mm (4.2 inches) for the month, which was 31 percent more than its normal based on the 1981-2010 period of record. Torrential rains in southwestern France inundated the mountain town of Lourdes beginning on October 18th, according to media reports. Flooding of the Gave de Pau River on October 20th resulted in evacuation of more than 420 hotel guests making pilgrimages to the religious shrine as waist-high water filled local streets and buildings. The Red Cross provided assistance with food and shelter. Flash flooding deposited up to 20 cm (8 inches) of mud and debris in the famed grotto and clogged water pumps for the bath halls. Floating tree trunks rendered damages to a hydroelectric power plant and bridges in excess of an estimated $2.5 million U.S. dollars. About six million people visit the Grotto of Lourdes attraction annually.

Heavy rains in central Africa caused flooding within northern areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo between late September and the end of October. Three fatalities resulted and 300 homes collapsed during flooding in the town of Gbadolite (Equateur Province) from September 27th–29th, according to humanitarian agency reports. The Red Cross responded to restore drinking water and food supplies. River flooding in the Orientale Province affected at least 3,400 households where the residents of villages in Dungu and Niangara lost homes and plantations and faced increased risks of cholera and malaria.

Intense storms battered southern Argentina with heavy rain and hail in late October. As much as 200 mm (8 inches) of precipitation fell within two hours in Buenos Aires on the morning of October 29th, according to media reports. Two fatalities (one from drowning, another from electrocution) resulted from the flooding of the Rio de La Plata areas, where nearly 3,000 people were evacuated to shelters. Transportation services were disrupted while widespread power outages led to numerous traffic accidents.

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Severe Storms

U.S. Storm Report for 22 October 2012
U.S. Storm Report
for 22 October 2012
Source: NOAA Storm Prediction Center

In the U.S., a rare sighting of tornadoes in northern California occurred on October 22nd. Fallen trees and downed power lines resulted as a powerful storm passed through several counties, as well as damages to rooftops and some structures. Please visit NOAA's Tornadoes page for detailed information.

The storm also brought the state its first snowfall of the season. About 25 mm (1 inch) of rain fell in the capital city of Sacramento, with up to 152 mm (6 inches) of snow falling to the east where five tractor-trailer trucks wrecked along California Highway 20 near Nevada City, according to media reports. Heavy snow of up to 0.6 meters (2 feet) fell over the Sierra Nevada range, which helped to replenish the state's water reservoirs.

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Tropical Cyclones

GOES View of Hurricane Sandy on 28 October 2012
GOES View of Hurricane Sandy
on 28 October 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

The hurricane season's above-average activity in the Atlantic Basin continued during October as three tropical storms and two hurricanes developed. Tropical storms included Oscar (Oct 3rd–5th), which formed west of the Cape Verde Islands, Patty (Oct 11th–13th), which skirted the eastern edge of the Bahamas, and Tony (Oct 20th–25th), which remained at sea to the southwest of the Azores. Hurricane Rafael (Oct 12th–17th) brushed by Bermuda, bringing strong winds and rain while about 400 homes lost power and one person perished. Sandy (Oct 22nd–30th) originated in the Caribbean Sea, making landfalls in Jamaica, Cuba, and the United States. At least 170 fatalities resulted from the massive storm. In addition to the devastating impacts of large-scale flooding, wind damage, and power outages at over 8 million households, Sandy brought blizzard conditions to several U.S. states along the Appalachian Mountains. Please visit NOAA's National Overview and the Hurricanes and Tropical Storms pages for detailed information.


Hurricane Paul neared Mexico on 15 October 2012
Hurricane Paul neared Mexico
on 15 October 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Moderate activity continued in the Eastern Pacific as two tropical storms and one hurricane formed during October. Tropical Storms Olivia (Oct 6th–9th) and Rosa (Oct 30th–Nov 4th) remained entirely at sea to the southwest of Mexico. Hurricane Paul (Oct 13th–17th) made landfall in Mexico's Baja peninsula on October 17th, which resulted in flooding and power losses affecting nearly 16,000 people and damaged close to 1,000 homes, according to media reports. A major port at San Carlos was closed in advance of the storm, as well as four smaller ports used by locals to fish shrimp, tuna, and sardines.


Typhoon Prapiroon weakened along Japan on 18 October 2012
Typhoon Prapiroon weakened along
Japan on 18 October 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

The Western Pacific's very active season continued during October with two typhoons and one tropical storm occurring. Typhoon Prapiroon (a.k.a. Nina; Oct 5th–19th) formed northeast of Guam, then meandered in the Philippines Sea before tracking to the northeast of Japan, while its heavy rains drenched the archipelago islands. Tropical Storm Maria (Oct 13th–20th), which emerged near the Northern Mariana Islands, also tracked northeast of Japan.


Typhoon Son-Tinh lashed Vietnam on 28 October 2012
Typhoon Son-Tinh lashed
Vietnam on 28 October 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Typhoon Son-Tinh (a.k.a Ofel; Oct 19th–30th) developed in the western Pacific Ocean, and crossed the Philippines before making landfall in Vietnam. As many as 35 people died as a result of the storm, according to media reports. In the Philippines, where the storm caused landslides and flash floods, at least 27 persons were killed with 19 injured, and at least 9 others were missing. In Vietnam, the Category 3 typhoon caused 7 deaths, injured over 40 people, and left 5 others missing as well as downed power lines, destroyed 47,000 acres of rice crops, and damaged more than 13,000 Vietnamese homes. Another death in southern China was attributed to the typhoon, while at least five others were missing, and close to 126,000 residents were evacuated.

Three tropical cyclones developed in the North Indian Basin during October marking the start of its hurricane season. Tropical Depression Bay of Bengal (BOB) 01 (Oct 10th–11th), which formed from a remnant of Tropical Storm Gaemi , battered the southeast coast of Bangladesh, resulted in at least 30 fatalities and over 180 persons injured, with close to 60 fisherman missing, according to media reports. The storm uprooted trees, disrupted electricity, and affected over 100,000 people. At least 30,000 homes (constructed of mud, straw, and tin) were destroyed. Winds and tidal surge caused losses of crops and livestock. The island of Hatiya was considered to be the worst-hit. Humanitarian efforts mobilized to provide tarpaulins, water, and food including pressed rice and molasses. Tropical Storm Murjan (Oct 23rd–26th) developed in the Arabian Sea and made landfall in the Horn of Africa, where it brought heavy rains to northern Somalia, Djibouti, and eastern Ethiopia.


Tropical Storm Nilam crossed North Indian Ocean on 01 November 2012
Tropical Storm Nilam crossed North
Indian Ocean on 01 November 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Tropical Storm Nilam (Oct 28th–Nov 2nd), formed in the Bay of Bengal and made landfall on the southern Indian coast near Chennai. According to media accounts, the storm, which caused at least 8 fatalities in India and Sri Lanka, displaced over 8,500 people in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as storm surge of up to 1.5 m (5 ft) flooded its low-lying areas. One of the deaths occurred when a life boat capsized during the rescue efforts of a 37-member crew of a stranded oil tanker. The storm damaged roads, uprooted trees, disrupted power and rail services, and submerged standing crops of rice and bananas. Nuclear reactors at the Madras Atomic Power Station were safeguarded and no wind damages were reported. Schools were closed at least three days and port operations in Chennai were suspended.


Early Hurricane Anais neared Madagascar on 14 October 2012
Early Hurricane Anais neared
Madagascar on 14 October 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

In the Southwest Indian Ocean, the first tropical cyclone of the Southern Hemisphere's 2012/2013 hurricane season, Tropical Cyclone Anais (Oct 12th–19th) formed southwest of Diego Garcia and dissipated near the northeast coast of Madagascar without making landfall. Notably, the storm (equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane in the Atlantic Basin) was deemed as the strongest hurricane to occur so early in the season and the second earliest hurricane of any intensity, after Tropical Cyclone Blanche, which formed in October 1969, according to media accounts.

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Severe winter weather

Central European cyclone on 28 October 2012
Central European cyclone
on 28 October 2012
Source: Copyright 2012 EUMETSAT

Central and eastern Europe received heavy snow on October 28th. For several locations it marked an early, first snowfall of the season, according to media reports. Up to 40 cm (15.7 inches) of snow fell across the Alps mountain range. One person was injured in a traffic accident involving eight cars, which resulted in the closure of a road in Fribourg, Switzerland. In southern Poland, three persons perished due to frostbite as the heavy snow caused power outages for over 70,000 residents. Parts of Croatia received around 20 cm (7.9 inches) of snow. Fallen trees and wet snow blocked roads and delayed rail services in the Czech Republic. In Russia, the city of Moscow received up to 6 cm (2.4 inches). Strong southerly winds along Bulgaria's Black Sea coast forced closure of the ports in Varna and Burgas, while heavy rainfall occurred over the country's southern regions of Smolyan and Kardzhali.


Northeast China snow on 23 October 2012
Northeast China snow
on 23 October 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

The previous week, areas of northeast China experienced the first snowfall of winter as well. A cold front stretching from Beijing to Harbin dropped temperatures, while snow caused closure of an expressway on October 22nd. Near Tianmen, one person was killed in the collapse of a structure during heavy rains in central China.


Rare snowfall in South Australia on 11 October 2012
Rare snowfall in South Australia
on 11 October 2012
Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Passage of a very cold air-mass across the Mount Lofty and Flinders Ranges in South Australia produced an unseasonable snowfall in the town of Hallett on October 11th. Deemed as a once-in-a-century October snow event, the measurements varied from 34 mm (1.33 inches) to 8 mm (0.31 inch) around the area surrounding Adelaide (northwest to southeast), according to media reports. Strong southerly winds occurred on the Yorke Peninsula, along with heavy rain which felled power lines and signage that crushed a parked vehicle. Despite precipitation of close to 17 mm (0.65 inch) associated with the storm, Adelaide experienced its driest October in three years. Monthly rainfall was very much below average across the Adelaide region with many locations receiving less than half of the long-term October average.

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Polar Events and Sea Ice
Sea ice swirled off Greenland on 17 October 2012
Sea ice swirled off Greenland
on 17 October 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Remnants of Arctic sea ice that drifted along the east coast of Greenland in mid-October produced a pattern of swirls as viewed by satellite. The volume of Arctic ice has declined as the thickness of the ice decreased — a result of a lessening of multi-year ice.

Changes in Antarctic Rift from October to September 2012
Changes in Antarctic Rift from
October to September 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Over the past year, scientists continued to monitor cracks along the West Antarctic ice sheet. NASA has conducted annual airborne surveys of polar ice since 2009 as part of a six-year mission known as Operation IceBridge. A highly specialized fleet of research aircraft outfitted with a sophisticated suite of innovative science instruments collects data for studying changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets. A second crack developed in May 2012 alongside a massive rift that was initially detected in October 2011 on the Pine Island Glacier (PIG) ice shelf. The new iceberg, which will ultimately split from the PIG as the rift lengthens, is anticipated to be the largest in several decades.

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Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Global Hazards for October 2012, published online November 2012, retrieved on July 30, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/hazards/2012/10.